Session 29: Blockchains and Decentralization Autonomous Organizations (Ryan Shea)

In this talk we'll start with an intro to blockchains, bitcoin, ethereum. We'll explain what decentralization is and why it's important and then get into decentralized applications and decentralized autonomous organizations.

Next, we'll cover current events in the space, starting with the decentralized autonomous organization known as "TheDAO", including its creation, its explosive growth to a market cap of around $150M, and its ultimate demise after a $50M "hack". Then we'll cover the ethereum hard fork, the split of ethereum into two parallel universes, and the $70M Bitfinex hack.

Last, we'll talk about exciting new decentralized applications that people are working on today and what the possibilities are for the future. We'll cover OpenBazaar, Blockstack, Steem, Mediachain, IPFS, Urbit, and Yours, and we'll talk about decentralized venture capital funds, decentralized social networks, decentralized voting and more.

Session 28: How to survive and thrive as a musician (Sonia Rao)

As New Yorkers, most of us know that it is tough to make it in music. After leaving a well-trodden, safe path as a consultant to pursue music, Sonia Rao learned this lesson first hand. She will tell her story of going from the ivory tower to NBC's "The Voice" and use songs from her upcoming EP to accent her journey. The talk will touch on everything from the emotional changes that one has to endure upon making such a change to the vagaries, idiosyncrasies, and not-so-nice characters of the music business who will guide your career.

Some of this talk will be based on her TEDxBerkeley performance: 

Session 27: The L Train closure — what data can tell us (Andy Eschbacher)

In January 2016, news was leaked about the possible closure of the L Train's Canarsie tunnel, a vital connection between northern Brooklyn and Manhattan. While there are transportation alternatives for New Yorkers who rely on the line, a five minute ride from Bedford to Union Square is a great perk of living in Williamsburg and beyond. To deal with the grief of possibly having a longer commute, Carto's data and research team turned to open source spatial analysis tools, open data, and some beer.

Session 26: Framing the problem, farming the solution: a fun take on life, career, and startups (Leslie Bradshaw)

As a 4x entrepreneur, Leslie isn't afraid to admit that she's done a lot of things wrong on the road to getting a few things really right—including making the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies list twice for revenues generated under her leadership; co-founding an award winning pinot noir vineyard when she was 12; and being named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business. Come for some killer and actionable frameworks for evaluating a business idea—and stay for the rap, agricultural, Biblical, and pop culture references. Whether you want to be an intrapreneur, entrepreneur, advisor, startup employee, or more sophisticated reader of TechCrunch... this Salon promises to have something in it for you.

Session 25: Voting Systems & Game Theory (Kathryn Peters)

Elections are about so much more than the votes. The rules of the game sometimes catch our attention – could Bernie Sanders have beaten Hillary Clinton if the Democrats held open primaries in every state? And what's up with caucuses, anyway? But many of these rules are simply civics lessons we memorized as children and never stopped to question. 

So we'll address things like why Alabama has the longest constitution in the world. How the US has kept a two-party system even as those parties have dissolved, restructured, and completely swapped positions several times along the way. We'll talk about how election districts, runoff systems, eligibility rules predetermine a lot of how a democracy functions, long before a single candidate runs for office.

So if "democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried," is ours the best form available? Come learn a thing or two about electoral systems design, then try your hand at drafting a more perfect union. 


Session 24: Why Addiction Is a Learning Disorder — and Why It Matters (Maia Szalavitz)

This talk will explore why addiction is best seen as a learning disorder— not a sin or a progressive brain disease like Alzheimer’s. Using my own personal experience and 30 years of researching, writing and reporting on addiction, I’ll debunk some of the myths about it, including the idea that addiction occurs because drugs hijack the brain, the idea that there is an addictive personality, the notion that addiction requires treatment and is rarely overcome and the idea that everyone is at equal risk for addiction and most will get hooked if they try the most addictive substances.

Session 23: Immersive and Participatory Experience Design (Lydia Laurenson)

Have you ever wondered about what goes into making a massive immersive experience like Sleep No More? Lydia Laurenson is going to chat with us about her experiences within the immersive media scene and provide some examples of unique interactive projects from around the world. She will focus on her time as a member of the Latitude Society, a secret society that ran and curated private immersive events; she wrote about the society in Vice

Session 22: Conversing from a True Place (Eric Fisher)

Eric spent his former career as a product design strategist, working at Facebook, Google, Apple and a handful of other companies to design and build digital products that aimed to bring people together in meaningful conversation and community. But then he realized that building systems for conversation wasn’t enough; people didn’t seem to know how to communicate effectively in the first place! Since he left the valley four years ago, he’s returned back to his original love of storytelling and character development to explore and educate in mental health, mindfulness, truth and improv. This talk will fuse concepts from both these worlds into principles we can all use to improve our effectiveness in our personal storytelling and social conversations.

See Eric's TEDx talk for some background:

Session 21: Musical Landscapes - North Indian Classical Music, Jazz and the Reasons We Play What We Play (Andrew Shantz)

We will illuminate the development of the cultures that gave rise to jazz and Hindustani music and by extension shaped the modes of improvisation employed in these musical forms. The talk will be followed by a participatory activity where attendees will compose tihais - the signature rhythmic phrase of Indian classical music - with a combination or calculation and creativity. 

Session 20: Authenticity and Dignity in Visual Culture (Isometric)

In recent years, well-intentioned designers have worked to raise awareness about the challenges and injustices facing disenfranchised people around the world. Much of this messaging resorts to design that evokes pitiful abjection or Messianic charity. Through a series of case studies, Andy Chen and Waqas Jawaid will demonstrate how rigorous design can overcome stereotypes and uphold the dignity of marginalized communities. The event will be hosted at Kimoto, New York City’s first Asian rooftop beer garden designed by Isometric.

Session 19: Modern satire and the history of Millennials of New York (Alec MacDonald & Connor Toole)

The creators of Millennials of New York will provide a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of their cutting satirical takedown of the generation. In addition to discussing the background and process behind this parody of Humans of New York, Alec MacDonald and Connor Toole will also explore the current state of satire (especially online) and attempt to explain the reason so many of their fellow millennials seem to be drawn to a page that mocks them.

Session 17: Is the future of social media offline? Lessons from the Afghan Sneakernet (Eileen Guo)

In Afghanistan, infrastructure, access, cost, and security make for a very low Internet penetration rate. Yet despite this, Afghan technology users have found creative ways to bridge the "online-offline divide" through an informal and often invisible mobile social networks, aka the "sneakernet". In this practice TED talk, Eileen argues that though in Afghanistan, social media exists offline as well as online out of necessity, but this may actually hold clues as to what the future of the Internet experience, and social media in particular, may look like for the rest of the world. 

Session 16: Tim Urban and Procrastination

Humans are, in many ways, a higher intelligence trapped in a primitive biological animal, and a lot of what humans struggle with comes down to the battle between these two often-conflicting forces. For the procrastinators among us, that battle often ends up with the same winner—the primitive animal in us, or what Tim calls the Instant Gratification Monkey. In this talk on why procrastinators procrastinate, Tim discusses the internal world of procrastinators and the ways they might be able to take back the reins in their own heads.


We'll post a video of the talk here in the future. 



Tim Urban is the writer/illustrator and co-founder of the blog Wait But Why, where he writes in-depth posts on a wide range of topics, from why we procrastinate to why some lead and others follow to why we haven’t seen any signs of aliens. Most recently, Elon Musk, a reader of the blog, asked Tim to do some writing about the industries he works in, which turned into a four-part, 95,000-word series. Tim is currently spending his time panicking about a TED Talk he’ll be giving on February 16th in Vancouver.


Session 12: The Hard Problem of Science and Storytelling (Ben Lillie)

In many, if not most, parts of our cultural conversations it is essential to cast issues and concept in the form of narratives if we want them to gain traction. Stories are incredibly powerful both for creating memorable situations and events and in building emotional connections to people and concepts. However, many of the most important issues surrounding science, such as climate, have no characters, no plot, and no direct causality, all crucial components of a strong story. This leads to "The Hard Problem of Science and Storytelling": how do you tell a compelling narrative about a diffuse statistical phenomenon? This talk will pose, and by no means answer, that question.

Session 11: Three Bags of Stuff (Stephanie Losi)

Think back to a time when you felt done with New York and wanted to leave. What is the thing you dreamed of doing instead? What are your other parallel lives-not-lived-yet? 

In this talk, we'll discuss what it means to step away from a conventional path and do something different -- for a month, a season, a year or a decade. What are some important to-dos in advance of taking a big leap? How can you know when it's time? Can you do a test drive first? Stephanie will share her own experience, the great sides and struggles of taking an unexpected step away from a very conventional career, and how to create structure in an unstructured period of exploration.

Session 10: The Future of Public Markets (Ali Hamed)

Is it possible for the world to run without public, regulated financial markets? Is this some utopian ideal or a dystopian predictor of income inequality and fraud? Come listen to VC and founder Ali Hamed tell us about his views on the future of public markets in the next century. Here's his description of his talk:

Companies used to go public to raise more capital than they could in private markets, to achieve brand validation, and to achieve liquidity in their shares. Theoretically, liquid shares are more valuable than illiquid ones, and there is more capital in public markets. 
But do the pros of going public outweigh the cons? Maybe not. And as less companies go public, investment banks may be the drivers of helping private companies find alternative sources to raise capital from, and alternative ways to earn liquidity. 
And if that happens, the whole world is going to change.

Session 9: A journey from neural vision to computer vision modulo sensationalism (Grace Merel)

Given all of the recent hype about neural networks, you might think that the reduction from classical neuroscience experiments to AI that can recognize you is a "solved problem." Pas si vite, mi ami! In fact, while there is a strong connection between convolutional neural networks and the circuitry of the visual cortex, things like peripheral vision and attention are still less well understood. Grace is going start by leading us through the history of AI, artificial neural networks and the AI winter before jumping into the neural vision — computer vision connection. This talk will also emphasize which pieces of "common wisdom" about AI are sensationalized (in Grace's view) and which pieces are actual advances that we have made. At some point, you will be challenged about your views on the ethical implications of AI and hopefully... you will have fun with this :)